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#1 Mar 29, 2019 5:31 pm

New Historian

Bring me your poor, your meek, your shampoo

When I joined World Bank in Washington, I was quietly bemused at how “good” everyone was - or seemed to be. Coming from Jamaica, it was bit of a culture shock to learn that anything vaguely alcoholic at lunchtime would get your colleagues tut-tutting into their club sodas; and only the French smoked cigarettes. Not long after I moved to Washington the World Bank decided to do some poverty alleviation in its home base. Each member of staff got a memo from our newly appointed World Bank President, Jim Wolfensohn, outlining what the Bank was doing to alleviate poverty in our neighbourhood. He reminded us that it was in the power of each and every one of us to make a difference, in the lives of Washington’s poor.

In one such initiative we were asked to collect the complimentary toiletries from airlines and hotels, and deposit them in a box in the lobby of the office, for distribution to Washington’s homeless. I was stupefied - this is what the World Bank calls “making a difference”? I could just imagine the reaction of my favourite beggar, who controlled a spot just outside IFC’s main entrance, if instead of loose change, I gave him the remnants of my British Airways in-flight wash kit:

“Ah, Molton Brown - my favourite!”


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